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Lincoln man saw the signs to start his own small business

By Paul Lonardo

Inside the large garage bay, amid an assortment of old banners, signs, posters and source materials, there is a bicycle, a mini drum set, games and toys, some meticulously crafted by hand. All of these items are stored neatly along the room’s twelve-foot high concrete walls. A large high definition Apple computer screen sits on a desk beside a battery powered ride-on Jeep that is parked beside a child’s play fort with a sign on the roof in three dimensional lettering that spells ANGELO’S. Across the garage looms a large laminator and a worktable. Part playground, part workstation, this garage and office building is the home of Dsigns, a small business located on Mineral Spring Avenue in Pawtucket.

Some people take their work home with them, other people work at home, but Rich Lupo of Lincoln combines family and business in a way that has allowed him to spend a lot of time with his young son. Rich, his wife, Melanie, and Angelo even lived in the apartment above the shop for short time while their house in Lincoln was being renovated.

Dsigns uses state of the art large format printing equipment and the highest quality material to produce custom signs, banners, logos and vehicle wraps for businesses, organizations and private individuals. Rich creates custom signs in all shapes and sizes, from desktop nameplates to full-size billboards.

“Signs are important in the promotion of a business,” Rich says. “You always want to make a good first impression, and your sign is the first thing customers see. We can custom make any type of sign for your business, including banners, back lit signs, channel letters, custom graphics, custom logos, digital graphics, directory signs, whatever you’re looking for.”

One of the products that Rich really enjoys is vehicle wraps. These bumper-to-bumper billboards on wheels are a proven cost-effective and powerful advertising solution. The custom lettering and graphics can garner anywhere from 30,000 to 70,000 impressions every day, according to the Traffic Audit Bureau of Media Management. Wraps last for five years or more, and still cost less than just about any other form of advertising.

“We offer 3M vehicle wraps and graphics for mobile advertising,” Rich says. “You see more and more of them all the time. They’ve become quite popular, not just with commercial vehicles and vans, but private cars, trucks and motorcycles.”

Dsigns is pretty much a one man operation, and Rich has been running it by himself for 16 years now, getting help when he needs it from members of his family and his friends. Owning such a company was not something that Rich had in mind when he was younger; it just sort of evolved out of a characteristic inquisitiveness and entrepreneurial spirit. It all started when Rich was still a student at Rhode Island College. While pursuing his degree in marketing, he began working for the Providence-Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau in 1998. His job involved the marketing and promotion of the entire state of Rhode Island and the events always featured an array of banners and signs welcoming various groups and organizations to the city.

Rich, who is an out-going and gregarious person by nature, asked a lot of questions about the banners and then attended an open house sponsored by a local sign supplier, whom he asked even more questions.

“I thought, ‘I could do that,’ ” Rich says, and he set out putting his new-found knowledge to action when he began making his first signs for his employers at the Providence-Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau. He taught himself everything he needed to know, learning as he went along. He turned out to be a quick study, and in 1999 he officially went into business for himself, starting DSigns, LLC.

In 2002 Rich left his job at the Providence-Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau to concentrate on his growing business.

“It was slow going at first,” he says. “Definitely a little scary, but things started to pick up. I got more work, larger accounts. And fortunately, there’s always been a good-size market for custom signs and vinyl banners. It keeps me going. Full color, printed to any size, whether displayed indoors or outdoors or on heavy duty vinyl making them weather-proof, it’s an affordable way to get a message seen by a lot of people.”

Getting married in 2005 and having a son in 2007, Rich shifted his business formula somewhat, cutting back his hours to spend more time with his family. It was the freedom of having his own business that gave him the flexibility to manage his time and be with his son.

“In many ways,” Rich says, “it was ideal. But even though you can make your own hours, you still have to put the time in to sustain the business. Some people think that as a sole proprietorship you don’t have a boss, but you do. You work for your customers. So that responsibility is solely yours, too.”

Even with his son in school full-time now, this self-taught businessman is not in any hurry to expand.

“With my wife working now,” Rich says, “It’s good to be there for Angelo when he gets home from school and take him to his appointments or sports and not have to rely on anyone else, and just do all the things I wouldn’t get to do with him if I was working for someone else.”

For more information call or visit: Dsigns, LLC, 665 Mineral Spring Avenue, Pawtucket, RI 02860, www.dsignsri.com, 401-729-7446.